It was God’s original purpose that man should live forever. Being perfect, the first man Adam had the opportunity to enjoy a span of life that would never end, subject to obedience to God. (Ge 2:15-17) However, because of disobedience, Adam forfeited that opportunity, and from him all the human race inherited sin and death.—Ro 5:12.
During the Patriarchal Period. During the pre-Flood period, the life span approached a thousand years. (Ge 5:5-29) The people closer to man’s original perfection enjoyed greater longevity than those farther removed from it. The longest life on record is that of Methuselah, who lived 969 years. After the Flood, the human life span dropped rapidly.
Some have theorized that the year in the times before the Flood was just a month long. However, there is no Scriptural basis for this view. Had the year been a 30-day month, this would mean that Enosh would have become a father before he was eight years old, and others, such as Kenan, Mahalalel, and Enoch, would have fathered children before they were six years old. (Ge 5:9, 12, 15, 21) A comparison of Genesis 7:11 with Genesis 8:3, 4 shows that 150 days amounted to five months. The fact that the Bible also mentions the 10th month and, subsequently, one 40-day period and at least two 7-day time periods as passing during this year, indicates the year was 12 months long.—Ge 8:5, 6, 10, 12-14.
Since Moses’ Time. About 3,500 years ago Moses wrote concerning the life span: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years, yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things.” (Ps 90:10) The situation in this regard has not changed substantially.
Throughout the centuries, man’s efforts to extend his life span have been unsuccessful. However, in many lands life expectancy has increased. Hence, James Fries and Lawrence Crapo noted: “The average length of life in the United States has increased from approximately 47 years at the turn of the century to over 73 years today, an increase of more than 25 years. . . . A critical look at these data, however, shows that the increase in life expectancy results from the elimination of premature death rather than by extension of the natural life span.”—Vitality and Aging, 1981, pp. 74, 75.
Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ stated that nobody “can add a cubit to his life span.” (Lu 12:25) However, Jesus also said: “The things impossible with men are possible with God.” (Lu 18:27) Through the prophet Isaiah, God had foretold: “Like the days of a tree will the days of my people be.” (Isa 65:22) And in Isaiah 25:8 it was foretold that God “will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” This promise was repeated in the last book of the Bible: “And [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Re 21:4.
[Chart on page 252]
LENGTHS OF LIFE OF THE PATRIARCHS
Length of Life